Before going one step further, I have to offer this disclaimer. I’m about to express an opinion, and all of the imperfections and audacities that come with opinion expression are probably nestled in the following monologue. But I’m proceeding anyway because I feel very much obliged to try and add a different narrative to our public discussion of God and society, and particularly the vulnerable relationship between Christians and the LGBTQ+ community.
There is little else that sets my rage ablaze quite like the perversion of my faith espoused by my brothers and sisters on the far right. It is nothing short of sheer willpower that keeps me holding onto the hope that some, at least, believe they are attempting to hold fast to some kind of moral compass. Not that the left isn’t equally capable of mucking up the message, but the microphone seems to be on the former’s stage at this juncture in our political discourse.
So in answer to the outrageously hurtful and divisive rhetoric and policies, of which anti-trans bathroom policies are just the latest, I’m going to say something that I believe such subscribers will find equally outrageous. To me, however, it makes perfect logical sense.
Individuals that are living at various stages of transition from one gender to the other, have a far more intimate glimpse into the nature of our Creator than do many Christians whose birth genders coincide with their gender identities.
To illustrate my point, I’m going to employ pure logic, however flawed. I believe in transparency of methodology. I know this will perturb my neighbors who rely more heavily on scripture citations, which, if used correctly, is perfectly valid. But so is logic. The philosopher Hypatia was able to discern the shape of the earth’s orbit around the sun using nothing but the power of observation and logic more than a thousand years ago. So I believe logic is legitimate.
Men and women, as it is often cited from the Bible, were created in God’s image. So let’s start there. This must necessarily mean that God’s image is inclusive of both genders and everything in between. This means that men, or women, will always be limited in their ability to extrapolate the nature of God from their individual gender-oriented experiences. As a woman who was born a woman, I can’t intimately know what it means to live out God’s design for men. I would imagine the limitations are similar for those male-born men. Sure I can try to relate through dialogue and efforts to maintain an open mind, but it will never stack up to what I know of my own experience — an example of one of the many limits of the human condition.
But if, in an individual’s life, they’ve experienced life as both a man and a woman, they’ve been given a wonderful gift of perspective that is far more expansive than those who’ve only experienced life as a man or as a woman, particularly in light of the way our society tortures the respective genders with oppressive stereotypes and so-called gender-norms.
I am in no way trying to gloss over the horrible struggles that this sadly ostracized community experiences, or put an out-of-touch bow on its plights. I’m simply devoting this small excerpt of my thoughts to the strengths of this community, as opposed to its vulnerabilities, as I see them.
So if your life includes experiences as both man and woman, and God’s nature is, at the very least, encompassing of men and women, you’re further along in understanding our Creator than I am, no matter how many Bible verses or theologians I can quote. Our God is a God of the heart. That means everything.
Why am I stressing this? What are the implications of this? I’m sure there are some implications I haven’t even appreciated, but here’s what I have come to appreciate. The Christian community, however that’s interpreted, should regard the perspectives of transgendered individuals as precious gifts — windows into the mysterious and immense nature of God that can only deepen our understanding and intimacy with God.
Can you imagine how different things might feel in our public discourse if this is how we regarded one another? When someone, or a certain demographic, differs from the arbitrary “norms” we’ve assigned, it’s actually appreciated and valued for widening our perspectives and not scorned or stigmatized?
I recently read an article that interviewed a dozen or so men who had transitioned into manhood from womanhood about their experiences on either side of the gender spectrum. The thesis of the article was to show how sexism was alive and well, as told through the voices of people who had experienced first hand how biases and prejudices had changed as society went from viewing them as women to viewing them as men. The vantage point here is so valuable, precisely because it’s beyond the vantage points of those who’ve only experienced life as one or the other.
What a beautiful exercise this article employed. What? There’s something we can actually learn about ourselves and our humanity (or lack of it) from the unique and valuable experience of those whose backgrounds differ from ours? Shocking concept I know. The authors didn’t exotify or otherize their subjects, but rather treated them as the keepers of insight that only they can render — teachers if you will.
I say to those who think they know what God’s design is — when it comes to gender, sexuality or anything else — you are putting God into a box. You are limiting God to an idea that your feeble human imagination came up with.
We can experience elements of God and Christ and always commit ourselves to discovering more through study and relationship, as indeed we must, but that must be predicated on the humility that comes with the acknowledgement that God can mean, and encompass, realities that we might never grasp in our short time here on earth. Indeed, I believe we’re all required to rest in the mystery of all that we can’t understand.
One thing I am learning, or at least I think I’m learning: We all are a part of God’s beautifully complex ecosystem — all genders, sexualities, religions — we just don’t know how we all fit together yet. We probably never will know in our lifetimes. But that’s part of trusting in God’s immense capacity and unfathomable love isn’t it? There is a design, a wonderful purpose at work, we just can’t comprehend it as limited beings. At this point in my journey, I’m writing this believing that the example of Jesus in the New Testament affirms this approach to traditionally marginalized populations. I would not be venturing these words otherwise.
So to my trans bothers and sisters, I say that I can’t possibly relate to your journey, but I want to be able to, because the more I can learn and understand about your lives, the more steps forward I can take on my own path toward living in closeness with God. That might sound self-interested, but I believe it is only in the company of God that I’ll ever be able to better love my fellow man. Thank you for your courage and very existence. I pray for the day to come when the Christian population in the US can be an equal blessing and gift to you as you are to us, as opposed to the current standard of serving as the source of immense pain and exclusion. And I know I’m one of many who feel the same, for whatever that’s worth.
I also know a small blog post like this can hardly dent centuries of shaming, abusive behavior at the hands of so-called Christians. But I just couldn’t sit silently by any longer. I hope that with enough like voices joined together, this message will win. It’s hard to see how that could happen at this point in our history, but that won’t stop us from trying, not now, not ever.